Practical Application of the Word of God
We are told in Hebrews 4:12 that “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.“
I often wonder if the majority of us who claim to be Christians really believe this because I don’t see a lot of evidence to support this belief.
But perhaps the evidence of unbelief is really a consequence of our individual abandoning the word of God as our sole source teacher of truth and a widespread and general famine of the hearing of the word of the Lord in favor of the commandments and doctrines – words and writing of the dead and living idols we’ve set up for ourselves in the place of God and Jesus Christ, to whom alone our worship, obedience, praise, honor, and glory should be – of mere fallible and sinful human beings like ourselves.
If we are immersed in the word of God alone, the fruit – and the fact that it is living – will be evident. A lack of fruit when we are not immersed in the word of God alone – and the fact that it, in many ways, is dead to us – will also be evident.
This is an area where each of us who claim to obey God and follow Jesus Christ should be scrutinizing ourselves in 365 days a year (rigorous self-examination is a daily lifelong requirement for those of us whom God has called and given as sheep to our Shepherd Jesus Christ – not a short period of time, as is often preached and advocated, just before we observe the annual Passover each year, which is analogous to cramming for a final exam just before taking the exam instead of studying and learning the material for the exam all along the way during the course).
As I continually study God’s word and meditate on and pray about what God wants me to learn and understand to apply to my own life and either change or begin to do, I see constant evidence of the life within God-breathed scripture.
I Kings 13 is an example of this. I have read this chapter perhaps a dozen times before. I could, with a little prompting, have told you that my summary of this chapter is that this tells us about the judgment of God on the house of Jeroboam after Jeroboam failed to trust God even though God gave him the 10 northern tribes of Israel when Rehoboam succeeded Solomon and made his rulership over Israel even more oppressive than Solomon’s had been in terms of taxation and bearing the financial excesses of the kingdom.
That is an accurate summary of the first part of I Kings 13. However, this time, as I was thinking about the chapter as a whole, it occurred to me that an equally relevant – and very personal – lesson for me and those of us who claim to follow God and Jesus Christ is in the second half of I Kings 13.
The prophet sent to deliver God’s judgment on the house of Jeroboam was given very clear and specific instructions by God, which he understand and repeated twice (in verses 8-10: “But the man of God said to the king, ‘If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, “‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.'” So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.” and in verses 16-17: “And he said, ‘I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the Lord, “‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’”)
So far, so good. But here’s what we should take notice of as this story unfolds, from a big-picture point of view. This prophet obeyed God in the face of possible temptation to disobey God with a non-believer (King Jeroboam). However, the same possible temptation came from a believer (a fellow prophet of God) and the prophet sinned, resulting in his death.
I have read this before, but it never really resonated with me until this time. A fellow follower of God persuaded another believer to disobey God and death was the result.
It’s true and the lesson is clear if we just pay attention (this is how God teaches us through His word). Just because someone who is or says they are a follower of God and Jesus Christ does not mean that they are always telling the truth nor does it negate our constant responsibility to test, prove, and verify all things through God (our relationship in prayer and Bible study which is the conversation He and we should have continually – and without ceasing – going on throughout the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, and the years of our physical lives).
The prophet who believed the fellow prophet made assumptions, without going back to God first and asking “What do You want me to do?,” that his fellow believer must be telling the truth – God changed His mind – and he died because of his assumption, which led him to disobey God.
The temptations we face from non-believers are often obvious and easy to resist. However, the temptations from within the ekklesia are the ones where we often succumb to erroneous assumptions and end up disobeying God because we don’t go back and confirm whether it is true or false according to the word of God.
In this prophet’s case, it led to his physical death. In our case, it could lead to eternal death.
Here is how this same temptation to sin against God looks today. “So-and-so said it, so it must be true.” “Our organization (often misrepresented as the Church, which is completely false because no single organization comprises the spiritual body that God is creating and which Jesus Christ is the Head of) says it, so it must be true.” “Our website and/or our study papers say it, so it must be true.”
Any or all of these comments should immediately raise a preponderance of red flags in our minds and the first question we should ask – which the prophet who died didn’t ask – is “What does God say?”
This requires each of to be on spiritual high alert at all times and it may also require us to stand alone in obedience to God even when fellow believers around us are disobeying God, following people and organizations, and perhaps even ridiculing and attacking us for not joining them or for being “too picky” or “Pharisaical.”
Yet this is part of our calling as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and sons and daughters of God our Father. It is the narrow gate. Faithfulness to God and Jesus Christ will be the test we encounter again and again and again on our journey to the kingdom of God.
God must be absolutely sure that He can trust us to be faithful in everything – this is the character of our Father and our Lord and Savior – He commands us to do.
Nothing is a small matter in God’s eyes.
In fact, the reality is that a person’s real character is revealed through how they deal with the most minute matters of life, because that’s where the temptation to compromise is often greatest because the risk of being found in compromise is the least likely.
We as Christians must never forget – and I think we do more than we should – that we ultimately answer to God and Jesus Christ for who we are, what we are, the choices and decisions we make and why we chose or make those decisions.
There is no human equivalent that we answer to and we cannot look at, point to, or blame other people when we stand before Christ and give account for our lives. The bottom line for Him – as it should be for each of us – is and always will be: “What do Dad and I say?”
His words, which are the words of our Father, are preserved in scripture for us to learn, to know, to understand, and to live by. We have been given access to the throne of God in direct relationship and conversation with Him all the time, any time, through the reconciliation, upon our repentance, of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which repairs the breaches that our sins create between us and God.
In other words, like the prophet who followed the words of a fellow prophet without asking God first what to do, even though he had direct access to God’s counsel, we are without excuse if we simply follow what other people say instead of going back to God to see what He says and obeying Him faithfully, even if we are the only person – we are probably not (I think of God telling Elijah when he thought he was the only person in Israel still faithful to God – and sometimes it can seem that way to us when we look around us – that there were 7000 other people in Israel who were still faithful to Him) – on the planet who is faithful and obedient.
Are we going to believe God or are we going to believe other humans. In the end, that seems to be the question – and our answer to it – that matters most.